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מדינת ישראל
(Medīnat (Y)isra'el)
دولة إسرائيل
(Dawlat Isrā'īl)
Flag of Israel Coat of arms of Israel
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: Hatikvah
Location of Israel
Capital Jerusalem
31°47′ N 35°13′ E
Largest city Jerusalem
Official language(s) Hebrew, Arabic
Prime Minister
Acting Prime Minister
Parliamentary democracy
Moshe Katsav
Ariel Sharon1
Ehud Olmert
From the United Kingdom
14 May 1948 (05 Iyar 5708)
• Total

• Water (%)

20,770 km² ( 150th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• December 2005 est.
• 2003 census

• Density

7,005,400 ( 97th)

333/km² ( 19th)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
3.45 billion ( 52nd)
,944 ( 32nd)
HDI ( 2003) 0.915 ( 23rd) – high
Currency New Israeli sheqel (₪) ( ILS)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
UTC+2 ( UTC)
UTC+3 ( UTC)
Internet TLD .il
Calling code +972
1. Ariel Sharon is currently incapacitated, following a Jan 4, 2006 stroke.
The State of Israel ( Hebrew: ; Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةْ إِسْرَائِيل, Dawlat Isrā'īl) is a country in the Middle East on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a parliamentary democracy and the world's only Jewish state.

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Name and flag
Politics and law

Name and flag - Contents

The name "Israel" is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, where Jacob is renamed Israel after wrestling with a mysterious adversary ("a man", and later "God" according to Genesis 32:24–30; or "the angel", according to Hosea 12:4). Israel means "he who has wrestled with God." The nation fathered by Jacob, were then called "the children of Israel" or the "Israelites". Nowdays, they are commonly called Jews after Jacob's son Judah, the ancient father of the tribe of King David's dynasty.The Israeli flag is rooted in Jewish tradition. The white background symbolizes purity. The symbols on the flag are two stripes—one on the top and one on the bottom—and the Star of David emblem adorning the center. The stripes and blue colour are inspired by the tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl, used mainly in the shacharit (morning) and mussaf (additional prayers, on a holiday or the Sabbath).

History - Contents

Historical roots
The earliest known mention of the name 'Israel', probably refering to a group of people rather than to a place, is the Egyptian Merneptah Stele dated to about 1210 BCE. For over 3,000 years, Jews have held the Land of Israel to be their homeland, both as a Holy Land and as a Promised Land. The Land of Israel holds a special place in Jewish religious obligations, encompassing Judaism's most important sites — including the remains of the First and Second Temple, as well as the rites concerning those temples. Starting around 1200 BCE, a series of Jewish kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium. Recent archeological evidence suggests that the kingdoms of King David and King Solomon may have existed.Under Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and (briefly) Sassanian rule, Jewish presence in the province dwindled due to mass expulsions. In particular, the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Roman Empire resulted in widescale expulsion of Jews. It was during this time that the Romans gave the name Syria Palaestina to the geographic area, in an attempt to erase Jewish ties to the land. The Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in the region during this period. The Arabs conquered the land from the Eastern Roman Empire in 638 CE. The area was ruled by various Arab states (interrupted by the rule of the Crusaders) before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517.Throughout the centuries, the size of the Jewish population in the land fluctuated widely. Circa 1881, in the region approximating present-day Israel, the Jewish population numbered approximately 20–25,000 of a total population of 470,000.[ citation needed] Since 1844, in Jerusalem the Jews have constituted the largest of several ethno-religious groups. By 1896, they were an absolute majority of the population.

Zionism and Aliyah
State of Israel
Land of Israel
Districts · Cities · Transportation
Dead Sea · Red Sea · Sea of Galilee
Mediterranean · Negev · Judea · Samaria
Jerusalem · Tel Aviv · Haifa
History of Israel
Zionism · Timeline · Aliyah · Herzl
Balfour · Mandate · 1947 UN Plan
Independence · Austerity · Refugees
Arab-Israeli conflict · Proposals
1948 War · 1949 Armistice · Suez War
Six-Day War · Attrition War
Yom Kippur War · Lebanon War
Peace treaties with:
Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Timeline · Peace process · Peace camp
1st Intifada · Oslo · 2nd Intifada
Barrier · Disengagement
Science & Tech. · Companies · Tourism
Demographics · Culture
Judaism · Israeli Arabs · Kibbutz
Music · Archaeology · Universities
Hebrew · Literature · Israelis
Laws · Politics
Law of Return · Jerusalem Law
Parties · Elections · PM · President
Knesset · Supreme Court · Courts
Foreign affairs
UN · Intl. Law · Arab League
Israeli Security Forces
Israel Defense Forces
Mossad · Shabak · Aman
Sayeret · YAMAM · Magav · Police
The first wave of Jewish immigration to Israel, or Aliyah (עלייה) started in 1881 as Jews fled persecution, or followed Socialist Zionist ideas of Moses Hess and others of "redemption of the soil". Jews bought land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders. After Jews established agricultural settlements, tensions erupted between the Jews and Arabs. Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), an Austrian Jew, founded the Zionist movement. In 1896, he published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in which he called for the establishment of a national Jewish state. The following year he helped convene the first World Zionist Congress.The establishment of Zionism led to the Second Aliyah (1904–1914) with the influx of around 40,000 Jews. In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration that "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". In 1920, Palestine became a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain.Jewish immigration resumed in third (1919–1923) and fourth (1924–1929) waves after World War I. Arab riots in Palestine of 1929 killed 133 Jews, including 67 in Hebron.The rise of Nazism in 1933 led to a fifth wave of Aliyah. The Jews in the region increased from 11% of the population in 1922 to 30% by 1940. The subsequent Holocaust in Europe led to additional immigration from other parts of Europe. By the end of World War II, the number of Jews in Palestine was approximately 600,000.In 1939, the British abandoned the idea of a Jewish national home, and abandoned partition and negotiations in favour of the White Paper of 1939, which limited Jewish immigration and restricted purchase of land by Jews. Its other stated policy was to establish a system under which both Jews and Arabs were to share one government. The plan was never fully implemented because of a combination of resistance from the Jews and Arabs and Britain's pre-occupation with Europe and World War II. However, the White Paper guided British policy until the end of the term of their Mandate. As a result, many Jews fleeing to Palestine to avoid Nazi persecution and the holocaust were intercepted and returned to Europe. Two specific examples of this policy involved the ships Struma and Exodus [1]. These attempts by Jews to circumvent the blockade and flee Europe became known as Aliya Beth.

Establishment of the State
Ben Gurion pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.
Ben Gurion pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.
In 1947, following increasing levels of violence by militant groups together with unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. The UN General Assembly approved the 1947 UN Partition Plan dividing the territory into two states, Jewish and Arab, giving about half the land area to each state. Jerusalem was planned to be an international region administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.
Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly (on November 29, 1947), the Arab leadership rejected the plan and launched a guerilla war that included attacks on Jewish civilians. The Irgun Tsvai Leumi retaliated with attacks on Arabs, including Arab civilians.On May 14, 1948, before the expiry of the British Mandate of Palestine at midnight of May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. (question: by whom? The U.N.?)

War of Independence and migration
The surrounding Arab states supported the Palestinian Arabs in rejecting both the Partition Plan and the establishment of Israel, and the armies of six Arab nations attacked the newly formed State of Israel. Over the next 15 months, Israelis captured and annexed an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan river. Most of the Arab population fled or were expelled during the war. (Estimates of the final refugee count range from 600,000 to 900,000 with the official United Nations count at 726,000. According to official estimates at the time of the British Mandate, the total count of the non-Jewish population in 1945 was about 1,211,000, so there might be some inconsistency between the estimates.) The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.
Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands doubled Israel's population within a year of independence. Over the following decade approximately 600,000 Mizrahi Jews, who fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries, migrated to Israel (with another 300,000 or so settling in France and North America, leaving only a tiny remnant, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia). Israel's Jewish population continued to grow at a very high rate for some years, and was fed by further waves of Jewish immigration following the collapse of the USSR.

Subsequent wars, negotiations and agreements
Golda Meir was Premier in the War of Attrition and Yom Kippur War.
Golda Meir was Premier in the War of Attrition and Yom Kippur War.
After 1948, conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors continued, sometimes escalating to full-scale wars. Israel and its neighboring countries fought out the 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six Day War, 1970 War of Attrition, and 1973 Yom Kippur War. The state of war between Egypt and Israel ended with the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty on March 26, 1979. The state of war with Jordan officially ended with the signing of the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace on October 26, 1994. Sporadic negotiations with Lebanon and Syria have not as yet resulted in peace treaties. On May 25, 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982.
Celebrating the signing of the Camp David Accords in the White House Rose Garden: Menachem Begin (right), Jimmy Carter (center), Anwar Sadat (left)
Celebrating the signing of the Camp David Accords in the White House Rose Garden: Menachem Begin (right), Jimmy Carter (center), Anwar Sadat (left)
Israel is currently also embroiled in an ongoing conflict with Palestinians in the territories controlled since the Six Day War in 1967, despite the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, and the ongoing efforts of Israeli, Palestinian and global peacemakers. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on September 13, 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the "Oslo accords") guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule.In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. On 24 June 2002, US President George W. Bush laid out a "road map" for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which envisions a two-state solution. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Palestinian-Israeli violence between September 2000 and February 2005. Major warfare between Israel and Palestinian organizations took place in the 1982 Lebanon War, 1987 First Intifada and the 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada.An agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005 significantly reduced the violence. The election in January 2005 of Mahmud Abbas as the new Palestinian leader following the November 2004 death of Yasser Arafat, the formation of a Likud-Labor-United Torah Judaism coalition government in January 2005, and the successful Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip (August-September 2005), presented an opportunity for a renewed peace effort. However, internal Israeli political events between October and December 2005 have destabilized the political situation and forced early elections, scheduled for March 2006. (from The World Factbook)

Geography - Contents

Map of Israel
Map of Israel
Beach of Tel Aviv at sundown
Beach of Tel Aviv at sundown
Israel is bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, and Egypt and the Gaza Strip in the south-west. It has coastlines on the Mediterranean in the west and the Gulf of Eilat (also known as the Gulf of Aqaba) in the south.During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, Gaza Strip (which was under Egyptian occupation), and Sinai from Egypt. It withdrew all troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip on September 12, 2005. The future status of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights remains to be determined.The total area of the sovereign territory of Israel — excluding all territories captured by Israel in 1967 — is 20,770 (20,330 land) square kilometres or 8,019 (7,849 land) mi². The total area under Israeli law — including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — is 22,145 (21,671 land) square kilometres or 8,550 (8,367 land) mi². The total area under Israeli control — including the military-controlled and Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank — is 28,023 (27,549 land) square kilometres or 10,820 (10,637 land) mi².

Metropolitan areas
As of 2004, The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics defines three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv (population 2,933,300), Haifa (population 980,600) and Be'er Sheva a.k.a. Be'ersheba (population 511,700) [2]. Jerusalem may also be considered a metropolitan area, though its limits are hard to define since it spans communities in Israel proper and the West Bank, both Israeli and Palestinian, and even the boundaries of Jerusalem city itself are disputed. As of 2005, the official population of Jerusalem city is 706,368.

Politics and law - Contents

Israel is a democratic republic with universal suffrage that operates under the parliamentary system.

Israel's unicameral legislative branch is a 120-member parliament known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is allocated to parties based on their proportion of the vote, via a proportional representation voting system. Elections to the Knesset are normally held every four years, but the Knesset can decide to dissolve itself ahead of time by a simple majority, known as a vote of no-confidence.

The President of Israel is head of state, serving as a largely ceremonial figurehead. The President selects the leader of the majority party or ruling coalition in the Knesset as the Prime Minister, who serves as head of government.2

Constitution and legal system
The Knesset building, Israel's parliament
The Knesset building, Israel's parliament
Israel has not completed a written constitution. Its government is based on the laws of the Knesset, especially the " Basic Laws of Israel", which are special laws (currently there are 15 of them), by the Knesset legislature which will become the future official constitution. In mid-2003, the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee began drafting a full written Constitution to be proposed to the Knesset floor. This effort is still underway as of early 2006.The declaration of the State of Israel has a significance in this matter as well. Israel's legal system is a western legal system best classified as "mixed": influenced by Anglo-American, Continental, and Jewish law principles.As in Anglo-American law, the Israeli legal system is based on the principle of stare-decisis (precedent). It is an adversarial system, not an inquisitorial one, in the sense that the parties (for example, plaintiff and defendant) are the ones that bring the evidence before the court. The court does not conduct any independent investigation on the case.As in Continental legal systems, the jury system was not adopted in Israel. Court cases are decided by professional judges.As for Civil Law influences, several major Israeli statutes (such as the Contract Law) are based on Civil Law principles. Israeli statute body is not comprised of Codes, but of individual statutes. However, a Civil Code draft has been completed recently, and is planned to become a bill.Religious tribunals (Jewish, Sharia'a, Druze and Christian) have exclusive jurisdiction on annulment of marriages.

Frontal view of The Supreme Court building
Frontal view of The Supreme Court building
Israel's Judiciary branch is made of a three-tier system of courts. At the lowest level are Magistrate Courts, situated in most cities. Above them are District Courts, serving both as appellate courts and as courts of first instance, situated in five cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and Nazareth.At the top of the judicial pyramid is the Supreme Court of Israel seated in Jerusalem. The current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is Aharon Barak. The Supreme Court serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and as the body for a separate institution known as the High Court of Justice (HCOJ). The HCOJ has the unique responsibility of addressing petitions presented to the Court by individual citizens. The respondents to these petitions are usually Governmental agencies (including the Israel Defense Forces). The result of such petitions, which are decided by the HCOJ, may be an instruction by the HCOJ to the relevant Governmental agency to act in a manner prescribed by the HCOJ.Judges are elected by a committee made of Members of the Knesset (Parliament), Supreme Courts Judges, and Members of the Israeli Bar. According to the Courts Law, judges retire at age 70. Registrars to all courts are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with the approval of the Minister of Justice.

Military - Contents

Israel's military consists of a unified Israel Defense Forces (IDF), known in Hebrew by the acronym Tzahal (צה"ל). Historically, there have been no separate Israeli military services. The Navy and Air Force are subordinate to the Army. There are other paramilitary government agencies which deal with different aspects of Israel's security (such as Magav and Shin Bet).The IDF is considered one of the strongest military forces in the Middle East and ranks among the most battle-trained armed forces in the world, having had to defend the country in five major wars. The IDF's main resource is the training quality of its soldiers and expert institutions, rather than use of overwhelming force. It also relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems, some developed and manufactured in Israel for its specific needs, and others imported (largely from the United States).Most Israelis (males and females) are drafted into the military at age 18. Exceptions are Israeli Arabs, confirmed pacifists, those who cannot serve due to injury or disability, and women who declare themselves religiously observant. Compulsory service is three years for men, and two years for women. Circassians and Bedouin actively enlist in the IDF. Since 1956, Druze men have been conscripted in the same way as Jewish men, at the request of the Druze community. Men studying full-time in religious institutions can get a deferment from conscription. Most Haredi Jews extend these deferments until they are too old to be conscripted, a practice that has fueled much controversy in Israel.Following compulsory service, Israeli men become part of the IDF reserve forces, and are usually required to serve several weeks every year as reservists until their 40s.While the International Atomic Energy Agency suspects Israel to be a state possessing nuclear weapons, the government has never confirmed nor denied this assertion. Israel has not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Economy - Contents

Ben Gurion Airport is an important of hub for international trade and tourism
Ben Gurion Airport is an important of hub for international trade and tourism
Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of fossil fuels ( crude oil, natural gas, and coal), grains, beef, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains and beef. Diamonds, high-technology, military equipment, software, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and agricultural products (fruits, vegetables and flowers) are leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Israel possesses extensive facilities for oil refining, diamond polishing, and semiconductor fabrication.Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the United States, which is its major source of economic and military aid. A relatively large fraction of Israel's external debt is held by individual investors, via the Israel Bonds program. The combination of American loan guarantees and direct sales to individual investors, allow the state to borrow at competitive and sometimes below-market rates.The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR topped 750,000 during the period 1989– 1999, bringing the population of Israel from the former Soviet Union to one million, one-sixth of the total population, and adding scientific and professional expertise of substantial value for the economy's future. The influx, coupled with the opening of new markets at the end of the Cold War, energized Israel's economy, which grew rapidly in the early 1990s. But growth began slowing in 1996 when the government imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration bonus petered out. Those policies brought inflation down to record low levels in 1999.High technology industries have taken a pre-eminent role in the economy, particularly in the last decade. Israel’s limited natural resources and strong emphasis on education have also played key roles in directing industry towards high technology fields. As a result of the country’s success in developing cutting edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences, Israel is frequently referred to as a second Silicon Valley. Israel (as of 2004) receives more venture capital investment than any country in Europe, and has the largest VC/GDP rate in the world, seven times that of the United States.Another leading industry is tourism, which benefits from the plethora of important historical sites for Judaism and Christianity and from Israel’s warm climate and access to water resources. The diamond industry is also of importance, but it has been impacted by changing industry conditions and shifts of certain industry activities to the Far East.As Israel has liberalized its economy and reduced taxes and spending, the gap between the rich and poor has grown. As of 2005, 20.5% of Israeli families (and 34% of Israeli children) are living below the poverty line, though around 40% of those are lifted above the poverty line through transfer payments.Israel's GDP per capita, as of 28 July 2005, was ,551.20 per person (42nd in the world). Israel's overall productivity was ,510.40, and the amount of patents granted was 74/1,000,000 people.

Population - Contents

Arab Israeli soldiers and civilians in Galilee, 1978
Arab Israeli soldiers and civilians in Galilee, 1978
According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004, of Israel's 6.9 million people, 76.2% were Jews, 19.5% Arabs, and 4.3% "others". [4]Among Jews, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim — 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries. [5]Israel has two official languages; Hebrew and Arabic (See also: Languages of Israel). Hebrew is the major and primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population. Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and by some members of the Mizrahi and Teimani Jewish communities. English is studied in school and is spoken by the majority of the population as a second language. Other languages spoken in Israel include Russian, Yiddish, Ladino, Romanian and French. American and European popular television shows are commonly presented. Newspapers can be found in all languages listed above as well as others, such as Farsi.As of 2004, 224,200 Israeli citizens lived in the West Bank in numerous Israeli settlements, (including towns such as Ma'ale Adummim and Ariel, and a handful of communities that were present long before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and were re-established after the Six-Day War such as Hebron and Gush Etzion). Around 180,000 Israelis lived in East Jerusalem [6], which came under Israeli law following its capture from Jordan during the Six-Day War. About 8,500 Israelis lived in settlements built in the Gaza Strip, prior to their evacuation by the government in the summer of 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.

Culture in Israel
The first stamps, designed before the new state adopted its name, featured ancient Jewish coins and the text "Hebrew mail" in Hebrew and Arabic languages
The first stamps, designed before the new state adopted its name, featured ancient Jewish coins and the text "Hebrew mail" in Hebrew and Arabic languages

Religion in Israel
According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004, 76.2% of Israelis were Jews by religion, 16.1% were Muslims, 2.1% Christian, 1.6% Druze and the remaining 3.9% (including Russian immigrants and some Jews) were not classified by religion. [7] Israel is not a theocracy, and religions other than Judaism are supported.
Young Haredi men in Jerusalem.
Young Haredi men in Jerusalem.
Roughly 6% of Israeli Jews define themselves as haredim (ultra-orthodox religious); an additional 9% are "religious"; 34% consider themselves "traditionalists" (not strictly adhering to Jewish Halakha); and 51% are "secular" (termed "hiloni"). Among the seculars, 53% believe in God.Israelis tend not to align themselves with a movement of Judaism (such as Reform Judaism or Conservative Judaism) but instead tend to define their religious affiliation by degree of their religious practice.Of Arab Israelis, 82.6% were Muslim, 8.8% were Christian and 8.4% were Druze. [8]
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